Mid-South and Southeastern soybean growers should have ample opportunity to test Bayer CropScience’s new glyphosate herbicide-resistant alternative technology now that the company has officially launched its LibertyLink soybeans.

While Southern farmers sometimes feel they’re an afterthought when companies unveil new products, Bayer representatives say Mid-South producers will be able to participate in a big way in the introduction of its LibertyLink technology in soybeans.

“We expect to have enough seed with the LibertyLink trait for about a million acres of soybeans in 2009,” said Andy Hurst, product manager, herbicide-tolerant traits and Ignite herbicide, at Bayer CropScience. “About 250,000 of those could be in the Mid-South, depending on how the seed companies place them.”

More than 85 seed companies, including several based in the Sunbelt, will be offering new varieties containing the LibertyLink soybean trait, said Hurst, who discussed the introduction during a media briefing.

While officials are excited to finally be able to offer the LibertyLink trait after years of testing and seeking regulatory approval, Hurst said Bayer believes it will be more than just an alternative to the glyphosate-resistant technology developed by a competing company.

“We have been very impressed with the yield results we’ve seen in the field,” said Hurst. “I don’t know of a single seed-producing grower who isn’t planting LibertyLink soybean varieties in 2009.”

The varieties containing the LibertyLink trait will be available in maturity groups ranging from 0.5 to 4.9 in 2009. (The 0.5 maturity group will be sold in the mid-Dakota region). Soybeans in maturity groups 5 and 6 will be available beginning in the 2010 season.

The LibertyLink trait is being released at a good time, according to weed scientists. Weeds that are resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide active ingredient applied on Roundup Ready soybeans, have been confirmed in 19 states, and several states have reported weed resistance to multiple chemistries, including ALS, PPO and triazine herbicides.

By rotating to LibertyLink soybeans, growers not only introduce new herbicide chemistry but also attack glyphosate-resistant weeds such as Palmer amaranth, horseweed and giant ragweed with Ignite, which has a unique, nonselective herbicide mode of action.

“This rotation will enable growers to effectively manage or potentially avoid weed resistance, while maintaining the simplicity of current production practices and reaping the associated benefits of herbicide-tolerant systems,” said Hurst.

LibertyLink soybeans are fully approved for food, feed and cultivation in the United States and Canada. Additionally, import approvals have been obtained in key soybean export markets with biotech approval processes including Australia, China, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan.

As part of that process, the American Soybean Association and Bayer CropScience have reached out to key stakeholders and foreign buyers to discuss the benefits of the new technology in ensuring future oilseed supplies.

“We continue to champion the development and market acceptance of new traits and technologies that increase the productivity and sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers,” said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn., who chairs ASA’s Biotech Working Group.

“The LibertyLink trait is an important tool that enables growers to rotate herbicide-tolerant systems to effectively avoid or manage weed resistance and preserve these technologies for the future of U.S. soybean production.”

To help soybean farmers delay the onset of weed resistance to Ignite, Bayer CropScience “strongly recommends” the application of a residual herbicide, either in a pre-emergence application at planting or mixed with the first application of Ignite on the LibertyLink soybeans, says Hurst.

For LibertyLink soybeans in the Mid-South, the first application of Ignite should be made between 10 and 14 days after the soybeans emerge. “Most university and Extension folks are recommending early applications of Ignite on LibertyLink soybeans and glyphosate on Roundup Ready soybeans to avoid yield loss from early season competition,” says Hurst.

The label for Ignite also allows a single application of up to 36 ounces of Ignite versus two 22-ounce applications. The higher rate can provide more flexibility in the potentially adverse weather conditions in the spring in the Mid-South.

“We’re not advocating spraying big weeds with the higher rate,” says Hurst. “But you can raise the rate and improve the control of Palmer pigweed under certain environmental conditions. At the same time, we’re not positioning Ignite as a salvage treatment. It truly is an alternative herbicide approach.”

With the introduction of LibertyLink soybeans, Bayer CropScience offers growers herbicide-resistant traits for four crops — soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. Growers can also purchase corn and cotton varieties stacked with the LibertyLink, Herculex and Agrisure traits in corn and LibertyLink and Bollgard II in cotton.

Because of the increased LibertyLink offerings, farmers could encounter tighter supplies of Ignite in 2009. “We’re suggesting that when growers get their LibertyLink soybean seed secured, they book their Ignite, as well,” says Hurst.

All LibertyLink soybean seed also will be treated with Bayer CropScience’s Trilex 6000 seed treatment in 2009, he added.